Making History: US Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Marriage Nationwide

June 2015 will go down in the books as one of the most monumental Pride Months in American history. After hearing the Obergefell v. Hodges case, five of the nine Supreme Court Justices determined on June 26 that the 14th Amendment of the Constitution encompasses a national right to same-sex marriage. Previously, the 14th Amendment, which addresses the rights of citizens and the equal protection of all under the law, was instrumental in crucial equal rights cases, including Brown v. Board of Education (racial discrimination), Roe v. Wade (reproductive rights) and Reed v. Reed (gender discrimination). Once again, it has ushered in a new wave of equal rights legislation, with this monumental Supreme Court decision on marriage equality.

In the past years, gay rights have become a high priority issue, compared by some to the civil rights activism of the mid 1900s. Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage in May 2004 and in 2013, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was deemed unconstitutional, thus granting federal benefits to same-sex couples legally married in states that recognized gay marriage.

With the Obergefell decision, the United States becomes the 21st country to recognize same sex marriage. Prior to the Supreme Court decision, a total of 36 states permitted gay couples to get married, making it a viable option for approximately 70% of the US population. The June 26th ruling means that marriage bans must end in the remaining 14 states — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

Despite the majority of states having legalized same-sex marriage, the issue remained highly controversial, prompting the Supreme Court to settle the matter once and for all on a national scale. Proponents for gay marriage believe that it greatly benefits gay lives (their families, community, children etc.) without hurting or impacting heterosexuals, that same sex couples should be allowed the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples, and that same-sex couples’ right to marriage is theoretically protected under constitutional commitments to liberty and equality. Critics argue that it goes against the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and woman (thus undermining the institution of marriage), that allowing gay marriage starts a slippery slope to other “non-traditional” also undesirable relationships like polygamy, that gay marriage will destroy the heterosexual community through an influx of socially equal gays, that gay marriage creates a home environment not suitable for children who need both a mom and dad, that it’s against the beliefs of many religions, and that it further removes marriage from its purpose of procreation.

The decision for marriage equality is likely the most awaited of a series of recent SCOTUS rulings. Prior to the decision on the Obergefell v. Hodges case, the Supreme Court ruled that certain subsidies in the Affordable Care Act (more commonly known as Obamacare) were allowed not only for state-run insurance exchanges but also for those operated by the federal government. In the Supreme Courts third ruling in relation to Obamacare within three years, chief justice John Roberts wrote in support of the majority, that “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.” That same day, the Supreme Court also ruled on housing discrimination, voting 5-4 to broaden the types of claims allowed under the Fair Housing Act. Coupled with the Obergefell decision, this Supreme Court ruling represents a major triumph in the fight for equality.

As is the case with most notable events these days, social media erupted once news of the Obergefell decision broke. Snapchat added two geotags (one of a rainbow-striped equal sign and another with the words Making History) as well as a Marriage Equality Snapstory, #LoveisLove and #LoveWins were trending on Twitter, Instagram announced their rainbow-emoji themed weekend hashtag project (#WHP) and Facebook was filled with rainbow-tinted profile pictures created with facebook.com/celebratepride.

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After the decision, President Obama also took to Twitter to express his support, and later in his oral remarks lauded the ruling as having “made our union a little more perfect.” He added that it “gives us hope that on many issues with which we grapple, real change is possible. A shift of hearts and minds is possible.” These comments serves as a reminder that, though we celebrate today the immense progress that has been made and the many lives that have been changed for the better, the many new couples now free to spend their lives legally married to the ones they love, the march toward equality is not yet over.

(Cross Posted from Smart Girls Group)

The ABCs of High School

Every year since I was a freshman I’ve written about graduation. This year it’s my turn. By the time this goes up, I will no longer me a high school student. I will have graduated from the institution I’ve attended for the past 13 years. 13 years is a long time. I’ve been saying this so often in the past weeks and months that it no longer feels significant. Regardless, there are a handful of people I’ve seen almost daily since I was 5, and it will be strange to enter a universe where nobody knows these people or their faces.

My stint in the big house the kids these days call high school has come to a close. As a reflection, and for all the bright-eyed soon-to-be high-school freshmen (which includes my dear, darling sister) who in a few months will be walking through the halls I can trace like the veins on the back of my hand, here’s a (by no-means comprehensive) guide to high school. Given one person’s limited lens of experience, I asked some of my fellow seniors to pitch in. Think of it as an addendum to Ned’s Declassified, and remember, stay in school kids!

Apologies. “Learn when to use them. Stop apologizing for things that don’t matter and apologize when you are angry. The familiar feeling of rage and indignation means that you actually probably need to swallow your pride and apologize. Don’t cite excuses; don’t let it sit and stew; just do it. The apologies that come easy – the ones you say all the time because you have been taught – those are unnecessary. Stop apologizing for who you are and start apologizing for the things you do out of inconsideration. It may hurt initially, but it feels better afterward.” – A.N

Awkward. “High school is awkward. Let’s all be awkward together.” I.C

Balance. It can be a most elusive mistress but one worth the effort to seek out. Balance prevents burnout and helps keep things in perspective.

Bravery. “In all honesty, surviving high school in one piece is maybe the most challenging thing you will ever do. From drama to grades to boys and girls to family to anything else, mental sanity often takes a back seat. But if you find bravery in your choices and actions, if you strive to challenge yourself and courageously persevere, you’ll make it. Be brave with your endeavors, take risks, make assumptions, leap towards new opportunities, don’t fear your feelings. Be brave and conquer.” – R.M

College apps. It’s part of the circle of life. Come fall of your senior year, it’s all anyone seems to talk about. They’re long and arduous and of course important, but when senior spring comes around you’ll be amazed how quickly decisions come and suddenly, only some of those applications matter.

Drinking. And doing it underage. It’s a thing. You know this. I know this. According to the experts, it doesn’t occur as much as modern media makes it out to but chances are, you’ll get invited to at least one party where people are drinking. Know it’s illegal in the U.S if you’re under 21. Moving on.

Exercise. Whether you’re an all-american 3-sport athlete or a gold-medalist in the art of binge watching, it’s important to get up and move around every once in a while. After all, as the ineffable Elle Woods once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t!” Anything from a quick run with your dog or even a walk around the neighborhood to joining a yoga class, will help stave off some of the stress.

Failure. “It sucks and it’s the best thing that can possibly happen to you. Everyone says it and I’ll say it again: you can learn from your mistakes, and they can be the best teachers.  Chances are someone will get pissed at you, you’ll fail a test, or you’ll lose the game for the team at some point along the way. I’ve done all of the above. Embrace it, own it, and grow from it.” – I.C

Grades. “The boy you sit next to in Chemistry will ask what you got on the last test, your best friend will do better in math than you, your parents will insist you can do better. Try to realize how ridiculous it is that hours of hard work can be translated to one letter and try to let it go if that letter isn’t an A.” – N.B, The Girl in the Little Black Dress

Hope. It’s a thing with feathers, according to Dickinson. But seriously, dare to dream. Set goals. Make wishes. “When good things happen, you’ll have faith in having hope.” – S.B

Hurt. “High School is riddled with it. Whether it’s your friends, your teachers, your enemies, your gal or guy, or your lack of one, it happens. A lot. Heartache seems like it won’t end, like your heart is caving in on itself, like every breath you take is a conscious effort to insist your lungs keep working, when your mind feels so empty and so busy at the same time. Step one: drink lots of cold water. Absolutely. Don’t question it, just do it. Wash your face while you’re at it. Step two: do something uninhibitedly for yourself. Buy something, do something, see something. Do something that makes you happy solely because you want to do it. Step three: do something uninhibitedly for someone else. Helping others is the surest way to relieve the prism that forms around your hurt. Do something for someone who didn’t ask for it, who needs your time more than you do. Then, collect yourself. Turn around and resolve to be strong, to be wise, and to be open. It’s hard, harder than almost anything else, at some point, you’ll look up, and you’ll feel your heart healed and open and curious again.” – R.M

IPhone. “Your smartphone of choice. Can’t live with it; can’t live without it. Actually, you can. No one talks about the nights they spent on their phones, scrolling through Twitter. Stop living other people’s lives vicariously and remember to put down the lens through which you have come to view the world. Pictures are cool, but actual memories are cooler. Have a girl’s night where not a single person has her phone on her. It’s worth it.” – A.N

Journal. “I dare you to spend a week writing in your journal every day. Just write about what you did, who you got ice cream with after school. The following week, dig a little bit deeper. Who did you think about during math class? What are you going to miss the most about the year you’re leaving behind? Wait a few days, a few weeks, what have you, and read it all over. Then try to journal for the whole school year. Write about things that make you happy. As the years pass, you can follow your past, and stay fully focused on the future, remembering details, and noting them as you live them.” – S.B

Kindness. “The average person is marked as such because they consistently fail to make the difference between mediocre and life-changing. Think back to the last act of true kindness you witnessed, and you feel your heart swell up inside your chest with esteem and gratitude. It’s simple. Make conscientious decisions, love freely, be aware, and most of all, strive for compassion. You can change someone’s life with a single choice.” – R.M

Kiss. “I was one of those people who got so wrapped up about the first kiss that it took me far too long to actually get around to doing it. Let me assure you, I am now a fan. I stand behind my girl, Audrey Hepburn, when she said, ‘I believe in kissing, kissing a lot.’ I would also like to add that I believe that dancing around your room while lip-syncing Taylor Swift is a perfectly acceptable reaction to a first date. Academics are important, but remember too that you’re young and that’s beautiful and it’s okay to be a little drunk on youth. Don’t leave high school regretting all the what-ifs and near-misses. If you’re waiting around for a shy guy to make a move, kiss him first. Practice unashamed, terrifying bravery in thirty-second intervals, and go for it.” – A.N.

Love – what a hefty word. Don’t just sling it around. I don’t wanna knock high-school relationships or sweethearts because I’ve seen and heard of many fantastic, successful such couples but don’t despair if you don’t find “the one” in high school, or hey even in college. That’s not the end all be all. Have fun, let loose and remember, “we accept the love we think we deserve.

Mentor(s). Someone older than you whose judgment and opinion you trust. Bounce things off of them, even if you think it might be trivial because if it’s important to you then it matters, at least to some extent, and two heads are better than one.

Music. “Send people songs. The best pick-up line I ever used was “what’s your favorite song?” I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much wonder on a stranger’s face before. It’s something to talk about, a warm hug when you’re alone in bed and can’t fall asleep. Just listen to music, and share it with others. Go to live concerts. Go to symphonies. This one time I was on a school trip and feeling really lonely, and then we went to an orchestra concert, and I absolutely fell in love. Music is magical. Just let it happen.” – S.B

No. “No is a complete sentence and an answer to a question that doesn’t need a follow-up. Learn to say no to some of the obligations heaped on you. I wish I had mastered this particular skill far earlier. Better to be really good at a few things than a Jack of all trades, master of none. Say no to situations that make you uncomfortable. If no one hears you, leave. Get help. Get out. No one has the right to judge you for your own boundaries. Say no when you would compromise yourself by saying yes. Say no even to people you like. Don’t let your well-being and sanity take the backseat for a friend. You never, ever have to qualify the sentence “No,” and under no circumstances should you ever apologize for it.” – A.N

Novice. “Newbie, beginner, baby, n00b. Most likely, you’re always going to feel like one, even if people look up to you (which they will), and that’s totally fine. Nobody has it all figured out. Really.” – ELS

Organic Chemistry. “That’s the horror class that you’ll hear about from college students, whenever you chat with them. But high school has them, too: your BC Calculus, your Music Theory, and if you ask the right people, every other class there is. You can either loathe the horror classes or embrace them, and the people that embrace them tend to come out a little more satisfied. So no matter how difficult a class is, if you go into every day hoping you’ll learn something (even if it is organic freaking chemistry), you probably will learn more and be happier with your learning then the grumbling people in the back of the room.” – ELS

Outsider. “Disney Channel has us well prepared for the inevitability of standing alone in a room, sitting alone at a table, walking alone in the halls. And yet no one has ever perfectly described the gut tangling, heart wrenching, mind clouding loneliness that ensues when you realize you don’t fit in. People will tell you to ignore this, to overcome it, but they don’t understand the difficulty and futility of “mind over matter” when you feel that every essence of you is unwanted. The simple solution is to breathe. Because it happens to everyone. All the time. Often. It happens, and social dynamics will never avoid it. It’s not a matter of being proud or strong in front of others. It’s a matter of being proud and strong for yourself. You have to love yourself, you have to believe with everything in you that maybe you don’t want to conform, maybe you don’t enjoy a certain company, maybe you’re worth being more than tolerated. Because you undoubtedly, infallibly, always are.” –R.M

People change. Since I’m assuming you’re human, you will too. Not all change is bad, and not all change is good, but it’s part of the circle of life, and the best part is, if you don’t like something, you’ve got the power to turn it around. Never forget that change is within your hands.

Question everything. You’re only young once. Now’s the time to learn what you want. Be curious and don’t accept the status quo just because it’s been the status quo for ages.

Read. For pleasure. And the book(s) that are assigned for classes. It’s not the cool thing to do, and it’s tedious at best, but if your goal is a high GPA or a prestigious university, it’s a great study habit. I wish I’d listened to the people who told me so earlier than I did.

Remember. “Appreciate the best of moments and the worst of moments. Internalize them, write them down, think of which stories you’ll tell your kids and your grandkids, think of those which you may never tell anyone at all. High school has ups and downs, but it’s the most condensed clash of experiences you are likely to ever have. Don’t let it pass you by.” – RM

Sleep. Like everyone will tell you, it’s important. And, it is possible to get the requisite 8-10 hours even on a school night. However, you will have at the very very least, one all nighter, and for sure a handful weeks where you get on average approximately 3 hours of sleep a night. This isn’t the norm every year for everyone nor is it the exception but more work and more responsibilities will cut into your beauty rest. Set boundaries so its effect is as minimal as possible.

TV. Combining it with studying is oh so tempting but not very effective. Seriously dude, don’t.

Umbrella. “Find yours. When your day goes to crap, when you can’t get through another minute of class or of people, when you feel like the skies are always cloudy and the rain will never stop, find a place, a home, a sanctuary. Be it a great book, a comfy bed, a challenging hike, find some way to release yourself and your tensions, and things will snap into perspective. Take time to reenergize so that when you face the world anew, you can give it hell. – RM

Unique. “As many times as you’ve heard it, this is the number one thing you want to be, and not just because colleges will maybe probably like you better if you are. Find your passions before you let anyone convince you that they’re “weird” or that you’re “not the type,” and then just fly with them. Whether that’s playing sports with balls, playing the mandolin, or playing every single nerdy board game you can get your hands on, the people you meet when you’re playing your way are leaps and bounds better than the people that will try to make you play their way.” – ELS

Virginity. “People try to make sex a really big deal. It is, and it isn’t. It’s not a concept to take lightly, but it’s not the meaning of life. Well, maybe it is. But not in high school. Grow up on your own schedule. When the time comes, it comes. When the time comes for your friends, give them a high five, and remember that your timeline does not have to rely on theirs.” – S.B

Work in progress. That’s what you are, as you go through these 4 years. You’re growing and changing and therefore, nothing is permanent. (Except, technically a tattoo). There’s an ancient proverb that says this too shall pass and it’s very applicable to high school.  One moment you’ll be devastated because you got your history paper back and the next, ecstatic because the cute kid who sits behind you in economics said ‘Hi’ in the hall. Life is ever-moving, ever-changing (just like each and every one of us) so don’t sweat the small stuff.

X…. “It seems like there aren’t really any words that begin with X. Find your niche. Do something crazy that nobody’s ever heard of. Audition for solos, make speeches, write a paper about something nobody else agrees with. Be special, be yourself, be different. Diversity is about pushing aside what we all seem to have in common, and bringing people together through their differences. Find a word that starts with the letter X that isn’t xylophone.” – S.B

You can do it. Whatever it is. My grandmother always told me, if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. And, as a high schooler, your age can be an advantage and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Youth. “Remember that you’re young. You make mistakes, other people make mistakes, and this is your chance not only to learn to forgive, but to learn to grow. This is your time to try new things, to be glorious, to be beautiful, and to be unhindered. Explore every meaning of the phrase ‘you’re only young once.’” – R.M

Zumba. “And all the other random clubs and activities out there that at first glance don’t seem like what you want to be doing on your Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, but then suddenly everybody is doing it. Somehow there are a lot of those. The point is, there are a lot of neat adults and almost-adults that have a lot of diverse skills and interests, and you never know who you might meet while sweating and trying not to look like a rejected flamingo while you miss half the steps you were just taught.” – ELS

The Power of Love

(Cross posted from the Huffington Post; Originally slated for Valentine’s Day but hey! Who needs to conform to hallmark-created holidays anyway? :P)

“Three words, eight letters. Say it and I’m yours,” whispers Blair Waldorf (played by Leighton Meester) in the hit TV show Gossip Girl. She’s just a teenage girl trying to get the guy of her dreams to utter those magic words, “I love you.”

Love is a strong thing, but in today’s world it’s a term we use rather often and loosely. It’s thrown out in corridors, at the ends of teasing jokes, splashed across the Internet on birthdays or late night conversations with just about anyone. It’s been so trivialized that it has its own abbreviation, ily. Three words were apparently two too many to express what has become a flippant sentiment.

But, despite all this, love still has a powerful allure. It’s something we all chase, whether knowingly or not. Rom-coms have associated true love with grand gestures, like coordinating a flash mob, building a house etc. On the other hand, in shows likeGossip Girl, love is the key to sex, but in today’s hookup culture, the two are often unrelated. Which begs the question, what is love? How do we distinguish between the intensity or passion of the word: when does love really mean like and when does it still mean love?

The way I see it, love these days is a gradient, broken up into four main types. There’s the most inconsequential, the “I love you” we address to Nutella, other foods and objects in general. Now, if you’re anything like me, professing love to food occurs pretty often and pretty seriously but, in the grand scheme of things, it’s the the furthest from the love we’re shown in the movies and other media. Beyond inanimate objects and pets, I for one like to tell people I love them. But the love I express either jokingly or sincerely to my friends is not the same as the unconditional love amongst my family, which is the kind that you don’t have to test and, at least for me, is the kind that you feel sure of even when you’re sure of nothing else. However, none of this is the romantic love singles pine for on Valentine’s Day. That’s being in love. And it’s complex. Because sometimes it’s fickle and fleeting and sometimes it’s forever. But you never know until you give it a whirl.

Maybe that’s why we’ve taken to using love for more than just knee-weakening romance. Because the swoony sensation, when it does occur, is a wild ride. It’s full of bumps and twists and turns and surprises (both good and bad). Rather than take that leap, it’s so much easier to simply proclaim love for your fluffy dog who can’t say anything to the contrary, or to your best friend who’ll only laugh and respond in kind or to your mom or dad who echoes you unfailingly with an “I love you too.” True love, or even simply an attempt at it, is powerful, and though that’s appealing, it can also be scary.

Why je suis Charlie

"Le crayon guidant le peuple"

“Le crayon guidant le peuple”

I scrolled through my timeline, stupefied. At first, I didn’t realize the magnitude of the situation, as I have a disproportionate number of French friends and news outlets I follow on Twitter. But as pencils appeared in profile pictures, and Je Suis Charlie was scrawled in cursive across the Internet, I knew it was bigger than I had imagined.

Having spent nine months in France last year, my heart ached for the country and its citizens as they coped with the aftermath of the January 7th attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine, and one I was quite familiar with. While studying abroad, my class had their original cartoons of Mohammed in our French culture class, during a unit on immigration and the cultural tensions between native Frenchmen and foreign immigrants, many of whom are Muslim. The day after the attack, my classmates and I received an email from this teacher describing his reaction upon learning of the death of these cartoonists whose chronicles of historical events he’d grown up with. The truth was unavoidable… this was a big deal.

As a journalist and writer, I was doubly affected. Censorship is an issue I take very seriously, having been told since I started writing online that I have to be careful what I say, careful not to offend anyone, careful not to raise too many eyebrows, because anyone can read this, because if you Google me, you will find me. I don’t think others should have the right to decide what you can and should believe and share and think and write. Your thoughts and opinions are your own, and as long as you don’t harm anyone, you shouldn’t be prevented from sharing what you believe.

Charlie Hebdo’s slain editor-in-chief, Stephane Charbonnier (known also under his pseudonym Charb) once said, “A pencil is not a weapon. It’s just a means of expression.” So whether or not you support Charlie Hebdo as a publication, raise your pencils in solidarity for fellow journalists and in support of free speech, for in that regard, we are all Charlie.

2014 in review: August is the new January 

I can’t be the only one. For me, the new year started in August. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t write the customary year in review piece before January 1, 2015. Not to mention, trying to capture my 2014 is like taking the ending of one book and mashing it with the beginning of another. So much happened within the past year, but to only analyze just from January to December leaves out all the backstory. Yet, it’s an interesting mixture of who I am, almost a cross section of the multiple entities I swear inhabit my body. For, in 2014 I was French and Chinese and Indian and American… loud and sassy and a social media junkie and a bookworm… All at once.
Regardless of the jumble encompassed therein, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen of the Internet, I present to you, my year in review (aka my life, in media res).
January: Commemorated 17 with pizza, friends, How I Met Your Mother, and Cards Against Humanity in a basement lit only by our tiny glowing phone screens.
February: Debated ways to improve access to technology and the utility of GMOs in English, at ILYMUN with international strangers. Fell back in love with intellectual arguments and the idea of so many motivated, aware humans congregating together.
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March: In Paris and Strasbourg, found out that maybe good things can happen after 2am; in Berlin, experienced the terror of being in a foreign country without speaking the language, and developed a love hate relationship with bikes.
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April: Spent a day shadowing journalists at Ouest France, the most widely read daily French paper.
May: Capitol-hopped across Europe,  graduated from a Victorian school house and slept on too many buses.
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June: Interned at Printpack, embraced the 9-5 grind, attended ISTE and was adopted into the Dell YIA family.
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July: Went to Chicago for EFL and was touched at how similar and close I was to people I hadn’t known a week before.
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August: Fangirled hard at the One Republic concert.
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September: Attended (and helped organize) Student Voice Live! and saw Stromae in concert with S.B.
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October: Burrowed into college apps and ran my last 5k for my school.
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November: Had Friendsgiving with A.N and met up with S.V (SYA Reunion of 2), and a slew of others quickly becoming new and good friends who share my liking for ice cream, coffee + Calvin and Hobbes.
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December: Got in to college and participated in my school’s 24 hour relay with some of my best friends since Middle School despite kind of having the plague.
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If I do say so myself, it’s been quite a year. I think it’s taken me some time to see this because for the past few months I’ve had college application tunnel-vision. For those of you who don’t already know, aka haven’t been subjected to the “wonderful” American college application process, the Common App is thenwebsite where you can input all your information to send to most schools and answer any school specific supplements. On the Common App, one of the essay prompts talks about a transition to adulthood. Though this isn’t the prompt I finally chose, I think it could easily have applied to my 2014, the year before I became a legal adult. The beginning of 2014 and the second half of my school year in France was when I resolved to push further out of my comfort zone and try different lifestyles; And the second half of 2014, during my first semester of senior year, I got a glimpse of what it was like to juggle an adult life and strive for that balance between work and fun (family + friends). Who I am grew, and shifted and expanded and morphed, and I realized, I might always be a work in progress… And that’s ok.

Emma Watson Leads UN Campaign He for She

On September 22, actress Emma Watson (best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise) addressed the United Nations as one of their Global Goodwill Ambassadors to deliver a speech launching a new UN campaign entitled He For She. The campaign was born out of the desire to counter the premise that people often see feminism as only by women for women and the movement’s recent bad rap, with feminist women being seen as too strong or aggressive, ugly and anti-men. Watson and the UN want to change that. The UN has described He for She as “a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all.” After all, as Watson said, “How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feels welcome to participate in the conversation?”

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Following Watson’s speech, many of her celebrity pals showed their support with a fervor, with many well known males (from author Neil Gaiman and singer Harry Styles to Watson’s Noah co-star Logan Lerman and Harry Potterco-star Matthew Lewis), posting pictures of themselves on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with the campaign’s hashtag #heforshe. As of October 18, 182,781 people had made the He for She commitment to taking action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls based on the idea that gender equality is not only a women’s issue, but a human rights issue that requires everyone’s participation.

Unfortunately, not all the press and attention Watson received following her speech at the UN was positive. Watson was targeted by Internet hackers, notably receiving a slew of comments and even a website, threatening to find and release nude pictures of her following the iCloud breach that leaked many inappropriate photos of celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence. Additionally, as with any hot-topic issue, there are the critics. In this case, some people say this campaign ignores the issues men face. However, Watson’s plan was benign and clear in its intent to help garner support for the feminist movement. In that aspect, it has been a success, given that these days it is a victory just to get recognized and garner enough attention to one’s cause.

Watson closed her speech with a question that relates not only to this campaign but is just generally something this generation must keep in mind, given that we are faced with so many worthy causes and pressing issues. Ask yourself, “if not me then who? If not now, when?”

Indian PM Narendra Modi visits U.S

September 26, 2014 marked the start of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s five-day American tour. This was Modi’s first trip to the U.S since his election in May, following a nine-year visa ban, over accusations that in 2002, when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat, he did nothing to stop the massive anti-Muslim rioting that led to the deaths of over 1000 people. Modi’s visit included an address at the UN General Assembly, meetings with CEOs of major international companies (including Google), a speech at Madison Square Garden that drew a crowd of around 20,000 and a dinner with U.S President Barack Obama (during which Modi didn’t actually eat, since he was on a religious fast).

Modi’s visit foretells mostly good things for Indo-American relations. Previously, the relationship between the two nations has been fine at best. But with India’s star on the rise, and the growing importance (read: potentially impending turbulence) of the broader region, the U.S could really use Asia’s largest democracy as an ally. The renewed American interest in India is also an attempt to combat the increasing power of China, especially given Modi’s vision for India to challenge China for Asian primacy this century.

The Prime Minister’s trip comes at a critical time. India is currently in a very transitional phase, and the country is working to figure out exactly what they want for the future. Under Modi, the Indian government has developed a fairly clear economic, political and social vision. During the presidential race, Modi and his party the National Democratic Alliance ran on a platform of ten priorities, a blueprint for their developmental. This ten point agenda is centered on increased transparency, innovation, efficiency and sustainability. As for foreign policy, Modi, like Obama, is looking to build bridges with the East, in his own “pivot to Asia.” In this vein, his first major international visit as the Indian Prime Minister was to Japan.  Beyond Modi’s personal issues, the Indian government is also uncertain of the sincerity behind Obama and the United States’s commitment to supporting India and the East-Asian region given all the other hot-button foreign policy issues such as Russia’s interventions in Ukraine and the U.S campaign against radical Islamists in the Middle East.

Modi’s visit and the mixed but vocal response shows the importance of U.S-India relations. And if the enamored crowd at Madison Square Garden is any indication, the U.S is ready to welcome a stronger Indo-American partnership.

 

 

(cross posted from Smart Girls Group)